Huntian By Lavren Le'Clore

The late afternoon sky was dark and menacing. Stormy clouds drifted in with the prevailing winds that flowed inland from the restless sea. An unpleasant chill smothered the dwindling heat. Surrounding pine trees swayed in melancholy unison, unhindered by the incoming draft. All other sound had been snuffed out. Only that of the agitated sea and chill which drifted over the landscape.
Huntian By Lavren Le'Clore

“Alright, then we will be gone by sunset.” Hunt understood and agreed with the Commissioner.
“Sergeant Brewster here will assist with preparations. He also has valuable information to share. Do not turn a blind eye to what he can offer. It will help you in ways you cannot comprehend.” The warning was clear as his attention focused on Aura.

These words rang true. Yet in Aura's opinion she was trapped between two evils. Accepting guidance from a man who could help, while blaming him for the death of her father. The glare she threw at Trent was so wrought with tension that even Hunt became uncomfortable. Aware of her confusion, the Commissioner stared her down until her anger subsided. He empathised with her pain, understanding her ordeal yet for their safety he believed Trent could assist. She needed to compromise.

“Time is of the essence and once again I must go. From the moment I walk out of this door, I doubt our paths will converge again. I wish you both the best of luck on your journey and hope you find peace. I will always be grateful to you both for the part you have played. Even if it was not of your own volition, you both contributed to the outcome and I thank you.” His voice softened as he acknowledged their selfless commitment in the past.

“We are also grateful for everything you’ve done to try make our future better. You’ve both given us a new life, there’s nothing more we could ask for.” Hunt spoke for them both as Aura wrestled with her mixed emotions.

“Take care Detective, Miss Lark.”

“Thank you Commissioner.” Aura managed a weak smile as the Commissioner turned to make his way to the door. His last glance lingered on Hunt before stepping out and closing their past behind him. The three of them were plunged into an eerie silence with tension invading the room. Aura turned to gaze out of the window as Trent watched them with uncertainty.

“Disappearing off the grid is simple, but not from criminals like the Arcus.” Trent broke the silence, forcing Hunt to look up at him while Aura's attention lingered on life outside the hospital.

“I’m well aware of the measures needed to evade them.” Hunt spoke with confidence.

“I don’t doubt that Detective, yet it's the trail you’ll leave behind.”

“There wont be a trail to leave behind.” Hunt snapped.

“There is always a trail, remember that criminals use unsanctioned methods. Whether it be through corrupt police or intimidation in the underground, they always have a way.” persisted Trent, drawing on his experience in the criminal world.

“That is why I’ll not let the police help and nor will I get it from the underground either. I’ll do it all myself with minimum interaction where I have to.” Hunt replied, his lips set in determination.

“Don’t make the mistake of becoming overconfident, Detective. You may know your stuff well but in reality it's not the same,” said Trent, stressing the danger they were facing.

“No it isn’t, but I’m very careful with what I do and I’m good at it.”

They regarded each other thoughtfully. Trent was excellent at reading characters. His survival had depended on assessments of individuals he had encountered. He saw Detective Hunt was aware of the road which lay ahead and mentally was well prepared. He still felt concern as it was easy for a situation to escalate out of hand. It was extremely difficult for one to remain hidden in the field. He had adapted to his surroundings to stay inconspicuous.

He worried that Hunt would not be good at that having served so long in law enforcement. He would find it difficult to break the law. He had to become flexible, blend into his surroundings in an instant. Aura had to follow, unquestioning as she was at more risk. Trent persisted, explaining his concerns, suggesting counter measures and detailing options. He noted the importance of swift determination of the safety of their surroundings. The process of erasing themselves off the face of the earth to begin a new life was a daunting task. He impressed the need adapt to every new circumstance, how to disappear and cover their tracks, to avoid unwanted attention. He reminded them that they could not relax awareness for a moment.

They would have to minimize their presence in one location and reduce any interactions with people. Hunt was aware of much that Trent imparted having gained experience during his line of work.

The more Trent spoke the more Hunt realised that he could help. Trent soon accepted that Hunt was on top of the situation. Hunt accepted the valuable information Trent was offering. It made much more sense and gave him in depth knowledge on how to plan their exit. He was able to understand the criminal mind for better preparation, one aspect he had not much experience.

At ease with each other, Aura too, soon thawed. Her interest was piqued as their discussion was simple and easy understand. Despite her unwavering anger for Trent, she could not ignore her rising admiration. The nightmares were still vivid. Trent had let the murder of her father happen, but his help was to become pivotal in their endeavours to begin a new life.

Aura realised that she would have to change her mindset and concentrate on their future. Acceptance was slow but in order to evade the Arcus and begin a new life, she had no choice.

Time drifted by as Trent reminded Hunt of what he had forgotten. The complexities of new identities, remembering their new names. The importance of adopting those names and cancelling the existence of their identity. New careers were imperative as their professions were too well-known. Trent cited a case of one operative tracked by criminals because he could not control a gambling obsession. He further explained that all material possessions would be absorbed into the state. Since they were deceased they would not be around to manage it. He hastened to add that they would receive compensation of sorts. Hunt stood to lose far more than Aura. Trent explained that based on their current situation, there was the possibility of arranging distribution of funds over time. These would be in small amounts through different routes on every occasion. The risks would always be there.

Another option Trent had suggested would be to move a large amount of money around through an underground network. This was also risky. Even though they were legally dead, with precautions they had to be aware of worst case scenarios. Hunt and Aura had plenty to process. They were alone with no government support. As they had chosen.

As they drew to the end of their discussion, Trent informed them that on his return he would have everything they needed to start them on their way. This included new identities, passports and money. He had offered to organise plane tickets, but Hunt was reluctant to divulge their intended destination.

He preferred to make the bookings on their arrival at the airport. Along with money and identities, Trent recommended disguises to enable their escape from the country. They needed to avoid any attention on their way out.

Hunt likened their operation to “Its so overt its covert.” Having exhausted the topic of their escape Trent bade them farewell. They had plenty of time to plan and discuss their next moves.

“Where do you plan on going?” Aura asked. She laid her head back on his shoulder, relaxing under his touch.

“I have a few places in mind, mostly East.” Came his soft reply.

“Care to enlighten me?”

“How about I keep it a surprise for now, while I think a bit more on them.” The less she knew the safer they were.

“You're not even going to give me an idea?” She raised her head to glare at him.

“No, its going to be our first date together and I want it to be just right.” Hunt smiled back at her.

“Oh, being romantic now are we?”

“We both deserve a reprieve don’t you think?”

“Of course and if you're buying then I’m definitely in!” She teased, snuggling in to him.

“Hm, subtle.”

“So were you.” Aura leaned in to press her lips to his.

Hunt wrapped her in a possessive embrace. Whispering to each other, they drifted off with the moment, enjoying the intimacy. They were going to take their new love together into their new world. Away from all the trouble, they intended to live as normal a life as possible. Aware they were travelling abroad soon, they rested before Trent returned. Their injuries would be a hindrance and slow their progress.

Much later, Trent's knock drew them apart. He entered dragging a large case, behind him. Aura’s vacant bed was a good place to dump it, after closing the door. Trent looked away from Hunt and Aura. Hunt sensed his loneliness and withdrew his arm from beneath Aura.

“I’ve got your clothes here, you should get dressed.” he said as he began unpacking.

Hunt hauled himself up into a sitting position, forcing Aura upright. She threw a look of annoyance at Trent's back. Hunt kicked off the blanket and threw his feet over the edge of the bed.

He sat with his feet hanging over the edge for a moment, clutching his waist, waiting for the tenderness to subside. It was not as bad as he expected. He was able to move slowly as the healing was in progress.

Leaning over toward him, Aura touched his arm, the look of concern palpable. Hunt shrugged her off before stepping onto the floor. He paused as he steadied himself. The floor was cold! He felt a rush as the nerves in his feet tingled all the way up into his brain. His movement slowed as he tensed his abdomen and the forgotten pain returned. He paused as he steadied himself.

Cautious steps took him to Trent. He reached the cool metal of the bed railing to steady himself and peered into the bag.

“These should suit ya, give ya the look of an architect.” said Trent, as he rummaged through the selection.

“Why the hell would I want to look like that?” Hunt arched an eyebrow. He was not fond of blazers.

“Because it says so on your passport.” Trent handed him a package with his new identification.

“Brilliant choice, I’ll fit right in.”

“You're going to have to. This is for you Angel.” Trent passed more clothing over to Aura as she appeared at his side, still scowling.

“Stop calling me that!” She hissed.

“Your identification.” He ignored her, indicating a similar package to that of Hunts.

“An accountant?” She blurted, checking her new career.

“It suits you, Angel.” Trent watched with an amused smile.

“Let it go Aura.” said Hunt in a low voice, watching her fury intensify.

Taking Hunt’s advice, she redirected her gaze from Trent and stepped back towards the bed she and Hunt had shared. Throwing her package down on the bed, along with the new clothes, she ripped off the tags. Hunt used Aura’s bed to lay out his kit, tossing his documentation aside before removing price tags. He exchanged an embarrassed look with Trent, as he began dressing, using his gown shield him. Trent turned away to give them privacy.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” cried out a startled Aura, covering herself with her gown as his eyes collided with hers.

“Sorry Angel, didn’t mean to catch a sneak peak.”

Trent smirked, spinning towards the door.

“This isn’t a joke,” She snapped, infuriated.

“Just put on the damn clothes, there’s nothing I haven’t already seen.” Trent retorted with a hint of annoyance.

“Inconsiderate pig!” She insulted, with an aggressive glare.

“Go and do everything yourself next time, ungrateful wench.” He snapped, his patience was running thin.

“Aura let it go.” Admonished Hunt before ordering Trent, “Quit antagonising.”

Trent turned his back on Aura, permitting her a moment to change. It was clear that she was very uncomfortable near him. Bound and at his mercy, then the discovery of his complicity in the death of her father made it extremely difficult for her to subdue her hate despite mitigating circumstances. Hunt did not blame her but he did feel that she was being somewhat unreasonable. Especially as Trent had been in a very uncompromising position. Events were out of his control.

Aura finished dressing, watching Trent out of the corner of her eye. He had not dared turn his head in her direction again. Tension was high enough. Once Hunt and Aura were ready they faced each other. Their eyes met, her expression apologetic. Hunt knew she could not help herself and he smiled reassuringly at her before indicating to Trent that he could turn around.

Trent approached them, slowly, irritated with himself and Aura. He removed his weapon from its holster and placed it in the suitcase, along with their new documents. He was about to zip it when Aura caught sight of her father's file.

“My father's file, why do you have it?”

“I picked it up after your escape.”

“What’s in it?” Hunt was curious.

“Cases related to Arcus, I was tortured for that information.” Aura shot Trent a look of venom.

“Let me take a look.” Hunt reached for the file.

He wasted no time perusing, sifting through the case images. He read through each of the reports, puzzled by their relationship to each other. He was intrigued by the murder of Amelia Shields, a case he had recalled being all over the news. If he was not mistaken, they had caught the culprit responsible. A common thug, who claimed to have stolen her possessions but denied the killing.

The second case which piqued his interest related to Sergeant Clive Daniels who was suspected of tampering with evidence. It was known throughout the department that he had been a part of numerous criminal cover ups. His partner had found the final piece of evidence which led to his arrest. It was now obvious to Hunt why he had been silenced.

“Recognise anything?” Aura watched Hunt.

“Clive Daniels, I knew him. I never believed he tampered with evidence. Although I was not on the case the evidence against him was certainly solid.”

“He was framed. In the wrong place at the wrong time.” Trent added

“You knew and didn’t do anything about it?” Hunt glared at him.

“There was no evidence to free him, only my testimonial. By the time I was able to get something, he had been assaulted in prison.” The resentment was his only defence.

“Weaver, you son of a bitch.” Hunt whispered to himself.

He had a bad taste in his mouth as his mind dwelt on his partner and once best friend. He felt nothing but hatred, so many lives ruined because of his selfishness and greed. He damned him to hell for eternity.

“Laura Ardal, hmm, I recall the case, vaguely. A missing person. I’m guessing you know what happened to her?” Hunt was intrigued.

“Actually, she’s the only one I don’t know anything about.” Trent admitted, frustration clear in his tone.

“What do you mean you don’t know anything?”

“I’ve never seen or heard of her within the Arcus, nor does anyone know that name. All I do know, is that she worked at the same pharmaceutical company as Amelia Shields. She was an accountant. But that was before my time in Arcus.”

“How strange?”

“I can only assume she uncovered the company's connection to Knox and his friend Alex Foster.”

“The drug dealer? Makes sense. Its likely that could have been the case.” Hunt was skeptical.

“How did my father find out all of this?” Aura was both sad and proud.

“He worked on Amelia Shield's case. He was good Detective. He had a knack of knowing exactly what to look for. Amazed me on every case we worked together. Its no wonder he pieced this together.” Hunt recalled.

“I miss him.” Aura spoke with a heavy heart.

“We all do.”

“We should get going, we’ve lingered long enough.” Trent was uncomfortable, expecting another outburst.

“Yes, we should.” Hunt gathered together all the paperwork and returned them to the file before returning it to the bag. He sealed it and handed it Trent.

They were almost ready to begin the journey. Their only possessions were in that suitcase. Everything needed to start a new life.

Chapter 8

They left the room and met up with Abagael one last time, to thank her for everything and to bid her a final farewell. Donned in their new disguises they made their way out the back of the hospital. Hunt with longer hair and a moustache, Aura's was shorter and coloured with plenty of make-up. Trent too, had changed, his locks trimmed and styled and he was clean shaven. He was very cautious, casing the entire street before permitting them to leave. There was a chill in air. They gulped their first deep breaths, for the first time in two weeks.

The weather was miserable, cold with a misty drizzle. Each drop stung their skin, as the frigid environment enfolded them. Aura shivered, her clothes not as thick and sturdy as those of Hunt and Trent. The jeans she wore attracted the icy air and absorbed very little warmth from her body. She rubbed her hands together and rammed them into her pockets, before they had a chance to get cold. The wind whistled around them, whipping tendrils of hair against her cheeks. Hunt was no less affected, particularly on his chest where the blazer was not buttoned. His shirt was light and thin, for casual weather.

They stepped up their pace, keeping close to each other as they hastened down the street. Both Trent and Hunt were very wary of their surroundings. There were always eyes and ears everywhere. It was essential they blended with normal passers by. They could afford no unwanted attention and even less, a tail. Even though the likelihood was slim.

The late afternoon was relatively quiet. Most office attendees had arrived home and the evening revels had not yet begun. It appeared each vehicle passing was as disinterested in them as the pedestrians. Trent was comfortable that they were in the clear. Hunt's alarm bells were not ringing. His concern was the cold weather and his awkward gait. He struggled to maintain a normal, brisk walk disguising his injuries. After the initial shuffling his limbs warmed and his stride lengthened. Aura, however, seemed to be very comfortable, her lithe steps matching those of her comrades.

Together, the three of them continued on along the main road, before stopping a cab. They would not be able to cover any meaningful distance in their current states. Walking would take too long and fatigue was a real danger. They all climbed in, Aura and Trent seated in the back. Hunt was in the front where he was able to let down the seat and allow him to lay back.

After directing the cheerful driver to the train station, they sat back. The journey was uneventful. The driver parked alongside the pavement outside the station. Hunt and Aura were first to disembark, while Trent paid the driver. He had not climbed out before a woman appeared at his side and slipped into the car with a quick word of thanks. Trent nodded, before slamming the door closed. He joined Hunt and Aura who was saying a silent goodbye to the city in which she had spent her childhood. The thought of leaving had not yet penetrated but she had a feeling she was going to miss it. She was about to walk away from everything forever, her home, friends and everything she knew. The memory of both her mother and father and her most cherished moments. A life to which she would likely never return.

Hunt watched her searching eyes. He understood her dilemma. He was not as affected as he felt home and life was what they made of it. Trent, insensitive of Aura's thoughts, passed her without a glance. He knew that she wasn’t fond of him but he had learnt long ago, not to let the feelings of others influence him.

Following Trent, Hunt slipped his arm around Aura's waist. Drawing her along with him they followed Trent towards the large building ahead. He searched for anything out of the ordinary. He knew Trent was watchful, scrutinising every person. He also knew Trent had years of experience and was able to pick up a decoy in any surroundings.

They followed the swelling crowd. Some in groups, others on their own. As the congestion increased, so both Hunt and Trent went on to high alert. They considered every possibility, analysing the ever-changing situation, where the closest cover was.

A tourist, possibly Mediterranean with a light skin and foreign accent. An Asian, although he was not too sure of the exact origin. The third was local, based on his familiarity of his surroundings. He wore a dark hoody over his head and was listening to music through ear phones. His manner subdued and aimless, skulking with his skate board under his arm. He appeared to be searching for something or someone within the crowd, his shifty gaze sweeping the area. His actions were suspicious and began to bother Hunt. Mentally preparing himself for confrontation he noticed two other individuals, similarly attired. They had skate boards, one coasting along, while the other, clutching his by the wheel, they jogged towards the loner. Hunt released the breath he and taken and continued. Another group of youths, probably out to make trouble somewhere.

Trent had also noticed them but Hunt deduced he had seen through them too. They both continued their surveillance as they drew closer to the main station building.

They finally reached the building and went through the double doors. The spacious room they entered lead directly onto the platform. There were a fair number of waiting passengers awaiting the train arrival. Those queuing for tickets joined the rest with tickets in hand.

The three of them followed on towards the platform. They had fallen silent, spending much of their energy observing those around them. Trent stepped aside suddenly, indicating Hunt and Aura continue. He lowered his voice, saying that he would meet them shortly. Before Hunt had the chance to question, Trent had disappeared in among a group around a corner and out of sight.

Puzzled by his instructions, Hunt and Aura followed the flow. Constantly watching the movement around them, Hunt guided Aura onto the platform. The waiting passengers had increased in numbers and Hunt concentrated on as many as he could. Some alone, others in groups, many using mobile phones. Everybody appeared to be awaiting the train arrival.

The cold wind whistled through the wide open spaces and the sky above showed no signs of clearing. Thick blankets of dark grey cloud lingered. The drizzle was intermittent, though it did not bother those under shelter. Aura switched sides with Hunt, seeking shelter from him. They were both looking forward to hopping onto the train. At least they would be warm and sheltered for their whole journey.

Hunt, awaiting Trent’s return, felt his wound begin to ache. Probably as a result of the excess exercise and standing. He watched the three hooded youths with their skateboards. Still focused on their music, they had drifted onto the platform. He could see they were mischievous and up to no good. He was convinced after they deliberately bumped an old lady, knocking her hand bag to the floor.

They did not bother to apologise or pick it up, but continued on their way. A gentleman appeared at the old lady's side and picked up her handbag. He handed it to her before turning his attention on the youths. His shout echoed across the platform. He accosted them about their indisciplined manor, demanding an apology. Arrogant and aggressive, they snarled at him, sarcastically apologising to her. Then they sauntered off. The man was furious. He was about to follow when the old lady cautioned him. She was hesitant to cause a scene. Respecting her wishes although reluctant he nodded before returning to his wife. Everyone else around them glared at the three as they made their way towards the end of the platform. The cocky trio found themselves face to face with a policeman who warned them. They cowered before his brandished finger, their demeanor sullen and discourteous.

“They need a beating.” Hunt’s glared after them.

“So unnecessary and to the elderly.” Aura added.

“Someone will do it sometime soon, I’m sure. I doubt it will help though. I’ve seen many kids like this over the years and they end up being perfect recruits for the Arcus. Nothing really changes much with them at that stage.” Trent was behind them.

“Things may be better now. Not so many unlawful opportunities for them.” Hunt watched the three youth under discipline.

“Perhaps, but it certainly won't stop their manner.” Said Trent, who knew that the officer was likely wasting his time.

“The real low life of society.” Muttered a disgruntled Aura.

“Things are not always as easy for others as it was for you, Angel.”

“And how the hell would you know if it was easy for me?” She snapped, glaring at him.

“Because of the father you had. It's not what they have.” Trent hastened to explain what had come out wrong. Hunt knew he had antagonised Aura once more.

“Don’t speak of my father again.” Her raised voice drew the attention of a few people nearby.

“Now is not the time or place for this.” Hissed Hunt at them through pursed lips. He watched the Officer finish with the disrespectful youths and walk towards them.

Both Trent and Aura fell silent, even though they were both irritated. It was clear they wanted to continue the argument, yet they did not relish any further attention. It was at this moment they heard the approaching train. The rustle of anticipation swept through the waiting passengers.

After an agonising wait as it rumbled to a stop and the doors slid open to disgorge arrivals. The usual chaos erupted when they were obstructed by impatient travelers. Among them the three youths. They had learned nothing from the officer's admonishment.

However, it seemed they continued picking on the wrong people. This occasion they had chosen to argue against two very large characters. They were brushed aside with little consequence and the most they could do was glare while scrabbling for the doorway. Knocking people with their skateboards elicited loud curses as the surge continued. Hunt feared a fight would soon break out if these young men did not take heed of the reaction in their wake. He shook his head as they followed Trent towards one of the coaches.

Heading for the door, Hunt and Trent kept an eye on the youths. They feared the unnecessary attention would draw undesirables. Trent also feared he would be unable to restrain himself from hitting them if they continued their antics.

Without any hindrance, they made it onto the train and began searching for a seat. Aura, relieved to feel the warmth, snuggled into her seat, laying back instinctively pressing her wound. The cold air seeped through the doors but it was still much better than outside. Hunt slipped in next to her as Trent found another further down the aisle.

They had seats facing the platform outside and were able to see everybody milling about. There was a group of school children outside their window so Hunt focused on those entering, rather than leaving. This was no easy task as there were adults, children, old and young travelling in many directions.

Hunt turned his focus to those on the train. Immediately, he noticed a person in the corner of their carriage. The inconspicuous black clothing, cap low over the face, sent a rush of adrenaline throughout his body. He was on the verge of pointing him out to Trent when he realised that the man appeared to be sleeping. His arm was up against his head, leaning against the window. He was on his own and not well-dressed. And Trent had already seen him. Nobody was bothering him so Hunt relaxed and allowed his adrenaline to subside. As the passengers settled down the noise began to die down. The doors slid closed and the train rumbled, gathering momentum. Soon the platform beside them slid out of view giving way to the park.

The speed of the train increased until they felt as if they were floating on air. Hunt had always believed travel by rail to be a poor choice as travellers are dependent on timetables and specific routes. Car travel gave him complete control and independence. It was with regret his thoughts drifted back to his favoured black Audi, deserted in the forest. He was very fond of his car and now they were on a train, leaving. Although only a car, it was significant of everything he was leaving behind. As his thoughts roamed the reality of his situation hit him in the gut. He had lost his home, his family heirlooms, everything material, his life. All to criminals. He would run for safety for the rest of his days on earth. A daunting thought.

There was not much conversation on the train. They watched the scenery fly past them, pondering their changed circumstances. Trent, also, said very little, especially as Aura was so close. He had resorted surveying surroundings, watching every character.

Soon they realised they had left the city and were racing through farming lands. The weather had turned very misty and dark, although the cold had not penetrated. Lost in thought, the first hour of their journey had passed. Before they realised it their train slowed down into the next station. The unmistakable rumble followed them as the platform slid into place.

They drew to a complete stop and the doors opened. Passengers poured out onto the platform, as seen at the previous station. However, on this occasion the trio were among them. Hunt noticed the sleeperman, who had been lodged in the corner of their carriage. He followed behind them, his face barely visible and his mannerisms slow and dazed. From what Hunt could see he appeared very unwell. Hunt pitied him, knowing how it felt to be hampered.

Hunt's wound had begun to ache again as they stepped onto the platform. They mingled with the crowd knowing this was only the first stretch of their journey. There was yet another station to pass, before the final hours to the airport. Hunt had yet to finalise their ultimate destination. He had pondered the various continents but found it difficult to make that decision.

From the platform they moved with the masses into the wide open station. Their connecting train awaited them at the next platform. Hunt recognised a few familiar faces accompanying them. Alongside them was the man who had assisted the old lady from harassment by the youths. He was with with his wife and on closer observation, Hunt deemed him to be kind and respectful. His manners were impeccable as he allowed his wife ahead of him and made way for the elderly every opportunity he had.

Hunt glanced around for the rambunctious youths. He had no inclination to run into them again. They would cause aggravation and attention. He saw no sign of them. He realised he had not seen them on the rain. He worried that if things became physical, his wounds may erupt. So far everything was going according to plan.

Soon they clambered into the carriage and settled in seats towards the front. Aura chose a window seat while Hunt sat behind her. Trent slipped into the seat beside Hunt still keeping his distance from Aura.

He had no wish to make her any more uncomfortable than she already was. He did feel she was over reacting although he was not to blame. He respected her feelings and understood her position but he could not fault his actions as he had a job to do.

Ignoring everybody around her, Aura watched the people milling about on the platform. People had always interested her. No one person was alike and she had always been able to find something amusing. She was not particularly fond of children, but she watched them interact with their parents. Her time as a lawyer gave her a better understanding of body language.

Her mind drifted, rendering the images before her blurring into the background. When they began their new lives she wondered how she would keep herself busy. She knew Hunt would be a big part of her future and her lips curved as she remembered their closeness in the hospital. She was not sure whether she would be able to practice law. In a new country laws would be different. Perhaps it was already time for a change, something different and simple. Governing the law suddenly did not appeal to her, long hours of work and little time to herself or with Hunt.

The trauma she had experienced had changed her perception and outlook on life. Knowing how close she had been to death frightened her. Life was precious and she had already lost so much. There was plenty she wished to accomplish despite not knowing in which direction they were headed. Her outlook had changed and she knew she had to do something meaningful.

As she cleared her blurred vision her heart plummeted. The air left her lungs and she felt cold. Instant recognition of a face she remembered. Her alarm escalated as she blinked but the figure had vanished. Her eyes burned from staring at the same spot. There was nothing. He had vanished. With nowhere to hide leading her to believe that her mind was playing tricks.

“What’s wrong?” Demanded Hunt, seeing her ashen face.

“Ah nothing, I thought I saw something.” She was hesitant, still trying to analyse what she had seen.

“Like what?” Pressed Trent, leaning closer searching her expression.

“It's nothing, my mind is just over thinking.” Still shaken as she searched the platform.

“It seemed more than that?” Hunt became agitated.

“I’m fine.” She covered her face with her hands.

Hunt did not want to pressure her so he used the opportunity to follow the direction she was facing out of the window, casting his eyes over the crowd. He could not see anything out of the ordinary. He knew she was afraid. He knew that something which caused it. He wished he could see what threats surrounded them. He could not shake the feeling, that there was something she was not telling them.

The final call for departure had been issued and latecomers dashed for closing doors. The train rumbled forward soon after and the platform receded, along with its passengers. Aura strained her neck, staring at the crowd leaving the station. There was no sign of the illusive figure she knew she had seen.

With no other evidence to support her glimpse, Aura dragged her attention away to focus on other thoughts on her mind. However, her expression had given her away as both Hunt and Trent increased their guard.

It was not long before they were speeding on their way out over a bridge spanning a major river. Then a golf course and finally out into the countryside. The train coasted along its tracks at a fair pace despite the weather conditions which had deteriorated. They felt the carriage sway as gusts of wind buffeted it.

Hunt watched the landscape flashing by while keeping an eye on Aura. He was concerned about her, ready to believe she was not imagining things. There was a possibility she was suffering with post traumatic stress especially after her recent experiences and he did not discount that but since Trent was on full alert, he had good reason to believe this was real. As he studied Trent, he noted every movement attracted his attention. Very little escaped Trent and with his experience, Hunt was confident that they had the best support and back-up. This did not bely the fact that Hunt resented having to rely on others for his safety, preferring to rely on his own experience and knowledge. His instinct was preparing him and at that moment he felt very uneasy.

The second part of their trip was half the length of the first, but seemed so much longer. Silence, each to his own thoughts. Aura had spent most of the time gazing out of the window while Hunt planned ahead. He was very content to anticipate a future with Aura, knowing how well suited they were. He was even more comfortable with the fact that Aura had agreed to join him at short notice and under duress.

Trent on the other hand, was following an entirely different thread. While already on high alert, and although all seemed reasonably normal, he was certain he had missed something. He had been monitoring everybody around them particularly after Aura's earlier reaction which he had not ignored. Knowing how a professional criminal behaves, he was very sensitive to any untoward behaviour. He was not sure what it was, but he knew something was not right, something did not feel right.

The very atmosphere itself grew thick with tension, he was unable to explain it no matter how deeply he searched for the answers. His intuition was piqued yet again and he began to feel very uneasy, which further alarmed him. He watched those around them more attentively, as the train drew into the second city and neared the station. Everything appeared to be normal. Yet Trent now knew he was missing something. Constant surveillance yielded nothing and no one character stood out – he was forced to conclude that even normal appearances were suspect.

The train was making its way deeper into the city and began slowing down, it was not long before it began curving into the busy terminal. Everyone on the train had begun to stir more than usual, as they gathered their belongings in preparation to disembark. Those eager to grab first place in the line had leapt up and blocked the doors. The noise level increased as parents disciplined unruly offspring and teenagers talked excitedly.

Trent, observant as ever, double-checked those in close proximity for any warning signals, silent communications or furtive behaviour. He knew it was the perfect time for any incident to take place since there were so many distractions to claim his attention, his glance roved throughout. Hunt shared Trent's misgivings and moved protectively towards Aura. They watched everyone around them and widened their surveillance to the platform, the lingering crowd waiting to board. Aura, on the other hand, was not looking for anything mysterious, but rather waiting for it to happen.

In an instant, a series of movements clicked into place and Trent stiffened, his entire body poised. The character Hunt had spotted earlier, who had been alone and supposedly asleep, stood up at the other end of the carriage. His dirty clothing compelled those in close proximity to avoid him which ultimately revealed him in plain view. It was at that moment, Trent spotted his sharp eyes flicker directly between himself and Aura from below the lowered cap. It was in that moment, his suspicions were confirmed. Another swift glance around their surrounding area, revealed more individuals who were now out of place.

“They're here and we’re surrounded.” Trent hissed, his expression neutral.

“What, how‘d they find us?” Aura, alarmed, glanced around her in panic.

“I suspected as much, up ahead with the black cap. Also the two youths in the next carriage and the chap in a dark grey suit on the platform.” Hunt had quickly identified more as he communicated with Trent.

“And the man with his wife, nearly missed them,” added Trent as they shifted away from their seats to join the flow.

“What do we do now?” Aura muttered, having glanced over the individuals Hunt and Trent had subtly indicated.

“Remain calm and act normal, they don’t know were aware of them, yet,” said Hunt, his mind analysing possible escape routes.

“No, they're walking us into a trap. We need to become unpredictable,” said Trent immediately and without hesitation, he too was assessing their surroundings with care.

“Just how do you plan on doing that, when we're surrounded?” Hunt inquired, his focus more on avoiding harm to the innocent around them.

“Just follow my lead Detective, and, what ever happens, get to platform six or seven,” instructed Trent as he quickly dialed a number on his mobile device. Watching the suspects around them he spoke, “We're compromised!”

Hunt frowned at him for a moment, before nodding in agreement. He handed the case he held to Aura and turned his attention to those around them. With the train having ground to a halt, everyone pushed and shoved their way out and onto the platform, while those about to board patiently waited for the dispersing crowd to thin, before making their way on. The impatient individuals simply forced their way through. Hunt and Aura followed Trent closely as they shuffled towards the doors. Simultaneously both Hunt and Aura realised that Trent had changed direction and was making his way towards the front of the carriage. Although Hunt was confused, he kept an eye on the lingering Arcus who also appeared perplexed.

Pushing through the thinning crowd, Hunt realised that they were heading towards the sleeper dressed in black. The one who most had tried to avoid because of his dirty and smelly attire. He was not sure of Trent’s intention, this concerned him. But since Trent knew more about the Arcus’ tactics, he did not wish to divert the attention in any way until he ascertained Trent's mode of action. Trent withdrew his hidden weapon and raised it before him, taking a quick and precise shot. The wall behind the sleeper was sprayed in red as the gunshot reverberated throughout the station. In an Instant panic and mayhem erupted and people scattered for safety.

Chapter 9

Chaos ensued, people dropped to the ground. Others fled with their hands over their heads, screaming and shouting for friends and loved ones to stay close. The large crowd which had gathered dispersed in all possible directions. The entire situation had become unpredictable and volatile, exactly as Trent intended. With his weapon held firmly, he charged out of the train and onto the platform. Snatching her wrist aggressively, Hunt yanked Aura along with him as he hastened after Trent. They both kept their heads down as they exited the train, in time to see Trent execute the man in the dark grey suit, who had been waiting for them outside the door.

Everybody around them screamed and clung to each other in fear, as gunfire erupted. Bullets sliced through the air, before striking concrete and steel. Ricochetting rounds pinged off hard surfaces and into other obstacles, shattering windows. The station was in turmoil, the diversion Tent had intended. Opening fire back at the Arcus, Trent tossed a pistol to Hunt who caught it and promptly began firing. They were easily able to identify their attackers and shoot back as they dodged around the cowering passengers.

Detective Hunt held Aura tightly by her collar, forcing her to crouch and run between him and the train, as they sped alongside the standing carriages towards the engine. Trent continued targeting their enemies with accuracy, as Hunt covered them and held Aura out of harm's way where he could. He was greatly troubled by their situation, especially as Trent’s actions had deliberately endangered every civilian around them. He had seen a number of people go down unnecessarily, shot as they dashed by in panic. As a result of this diversion tactic, innocent travellers were injured or lost their lives in the crossfire. Yet, contradictory thoughts flooded his mind after having suffered a near death experience, he was selfishly, not prepared to succumb again.

Together they ran the length of the train, successfully holding off their attackers. A continuous volley of gunshots forced them to run most of the way with their heads bowed. Aura found herself buckling under the stress, petrified of each and every bullet that hissed by. She expected one to hit its mark at any moment and it was that thought when panic began to cloud her judgement. She slowed her flight in search of refuge against the train and when she tried to dive into one of the doorways, Hunt prevented her and held her close.

Reaching the train engine, unscathed, Hunt guided her around the front and down onto the tracks below. She landed unevenly and stumbled across another set of tracks, before catching on an iron bar. Unable to recover she lost her balance over the uneven ground as she careened against the platform, her ribs connecting hard enough to wind her. She was frozen in that moment, clutching the edge, gasping for air and trying to quell the pain while keeping a tight grip on the large case in her hand. Hunt had turned his back on her and opened fire at the two undisciplined youths who had been running towards them. They had discarded their skateboards and withdrawn hand guns which were aimed in their direction.

Trent had stood his ground, focusing his aim on the man and woman who had taken cover in the train adjacent to their platform. He was unable to mark his target so decided to abandon his effort. The two youths were closing in. Launching himself across the first set of tracks, Trent made his way towards Aura. Hunt fired a shot from his position which caught one of the youngsters in the chest who toppled back against his accomplice, knocking him off balance. Hunt quickly followed Trent who had hauled Aura back to her feet and lifted her onto the platform.

Hunt leaped down onto the tracks and dashed across to the other side, jumping up onto the platform with Trent’s helping hand. Those remaining on the platform stayed low. Some were crawling onto the train which had begun to inch forward. As it gained speed, more travellers scurried to their feet hoping to escape the chaos. Hunt felt it best they followed and snatched Aura’s wrist to encourage her along. As he maneuvered her into the carriage, bullets once again followed their frantic dash towards the train.

Trent returned fire as he followed, unable to suppress the barrage. The adrenaline pumping through their veins dulled pain and restriction as Hunt and Aura raced for the closing doors. Aura tightened her grip on the case containing their future lives. The bullets continued to hail around them and it was beyond Aura's comprehension that they had not yet been struck. A situation she felt could not last as the situation in which they found themselves had intensified.

Reaching the slow doors, Hunt thrust Aura onto the train. She dove to the floor and crawled the rest of the way in, clasping the case tightly against her. Trent returned fire as Hunt boarded, before leaping in himself to take cover inside the door frame. Trent dropped to the ground, swearing profusely with his hands over his head. The Arcus were in close pursuit and moving up along the train, which was not moving fast enough to leave them behind. Hunt attempted thwart them, yet was forced back behind his cover as all their aim converged on his location. They had begun boarding the back carriages and persistently opening fire in their direction.

The people on the train who had so desperately sought its shelter, were now trapped with no alternate forms of escape. Those who were quick enough, had quickly disembarked again. The remaining terrified passengers crawled into whatever spot they could find, most of which was under seats. The screams and moans of frightened people mingled with the thud of bullets that echoed throughout.

Detective Hunt was infuriated. It had been his lifelong duty to prevent such atrocities, not to be a part of it. Forcing aside his fear he abandoned his spot and stepped over Trent, making his way towards the rear of the carriage. Running critically low on ammunition, with but a single magazine left to replace, Hunt cautiously approached the rear door, ensuring he was near cover and with his weapon at the ready.

Regaining her senses as she glanced over at Hunt, Aura lifted herself slowly when her attention was snagged. Blood on the floor had been smeared off in one direction, more than a simple cut. She followed it, her eyes locking on Trent. He was pulling himself up against one of the chairs and clutching his ribs tightly, blood oozed out through his fingers and trickled to the floor. His expression was more of annoyance and irritation, rather than pain or shock. He was by no means hysterical or in a panic. He was aware of the severity of his wound.

“Carter, Carter, he’s bleeding,” she shouted in panic.

“Its nothing, I'mma kill these bastards,” muttered Trent as he clung to the chair.

“Help him, apply pressure,” Hunt gazed back at him for a moment, before turning back to take aim.

“I’m fine,” Trent stubbornly refused her helping hand as she drew closer.

“No, you're not,” she snapped back irritably, forcing his hand against his body.

“Use his belt, make sure it's tight,” ordered Hunt as he fired off a shot.

Aura did not wait for Trent’s approval. She grabbed his belt and unbuckled it. Pulling hard, she slung it around under his arms and positioned it over the wound. She wrenched tight, before he had the chance to contest. He gasped and pressed his hand against the belt, closing his eyes, stilled as he allowed the pain to dissipate. The moment seemed to last forever. Aura watched him until he acknowledged with an annoyed grunt before she stepped back.

Trent hauled himself back to his feet propping himself against the chairs he had grasped, his weapon clutched tightly in his hand. His expression venomous, he searched for any sign of the advancing Arcus. Aura gripped the handle of the case she had kept so close, and staggered to her feet, keeping her head low with everybody else. Making eye contact with a little girl and her mother under one of the seats, she forced a comforting smile. She was unable to hide the blood on her hands and clothes.

The gunfire around them continued. Although Trent appeared indifferent, the subdued anger he was unleashing was by no means out of control. Every shot he fired was calculated and on point. His aim unwavering and accurate. Each round finding its mark. The tide began to turn as he instilled fear and caution to those on the receiving end. Trent had halted the onslaught.

The train speed had increased at a considerable rate. They were making their way underground, away from the station and where the chaos had begun. The journey was tense and they feared for their lives. The continuous gunfire was sporadic as the Arcus members slowly made their way closer. Trent and Hunt knew they could not hold out much longer. They did not have the ammunition and manpower. All they had left was the hope of holding out until the end of the journey. They had already left the station on the final stretch to the airport. Trent was trying desperately to hold their position until they made it into the underground terminal.

As they neared their destination, Trent ordered Hunt and Aura to an Exit window in preparation for a quick escape as soon as the train pulled in alongside the platform. They were a carriage ahead of their attackers which granted a momentary advantage of escape. As long as they were able to carry it out without wasting time, they would be allowed a suitable lead. Trent was confident that his plan would work, and ensured they were ready as he maintained a presence holding back the Arcus.

There was but one problem he had not foreseen and that was his condition. It was deteriorating slowly and more than likely he would leave a blood trail. He paused a moment to assess the options available to him. The final bend neared and with it he felt the train begin to slow. Immediately they felt the agitation of the Arcus as they became aware of their disadvantage. Trent was quick to maintain dominance, ensuring they did not yield any ground, at the cost of losing more ammunition than intended. Both Hunt and he were dangerously low on ammunition.

“The Airport will be on full lock-down. Police are awaiting our arrival. An officer with the call sign “Spartan” will escort you both to a private charter,” instructed Trent, an uncompromising frown on his face.

“What about you?” Hunt demanded.

“I’ve got my own escape.”

“How do we find him?”

“He will find you.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

“Trust me, he will.”

“So this is farewell then?” Hunt asked.

“It is, Detective.” He fired another shot back at an Arcus member.

“Thank you, for all your help.”

“Look after yourselves.”

“You too.” Trent and Hunt were taken aback by Aura’s unexpected reply.

Trent had not expected her to show any sympathy or thanks. Shaking his head briefly he returned his attention to the next carriage. The Arcus members had become uneasy as the train slowed. They had quietly managed to advance closer and Trent was very aware of the danger. He demanded Hunt’s weapon before checking ahead to gauge how much time they all had.

“Alright this is it. Go, now!”

Wasting no time, Hunt shoved out the emergency exit and grabbed the case from Aura as she slipped out and onto the platform. She followed the train and grabbed the suitcase as Hunt joined her on the platform. After one final nod of respect towards Trent as he regained his footing, Hunt grabbed Aura’s wrist and began sprinting toward the waiting crowd of armed police officers. So many weapons were pointed at them, all it would take was one to stop them in their tracks.

Seconds later more gunfire erupted causing a repeat of the chaos they had left behind. The police had found their targets, as the train drew to a halt. The passengers scattered in all directions, most throwing their hands over their heads and searching for cover. Looking back over his shoulder, Hunt caught sight of Trent slipping out of the window. Two officers rushed to his aid, watching the attackers. Protected by the suppressive fire of their allies, they grabbed Trent's arms and dragged him towards safety. Safeguarding him with a bullet proof riot shield they led him to safety and medical attention.

Hunt turned back, almost running into a tall well-built officer who appeared before them. They stared at his concealed face.

“I’m Spartan, follow me.” He spoke in a quick precise manner, latching onto Hunt’s arm. In one fluid movement he towed them along behind him. Forcing his way through petrified commuters and police on guard he escorted them to safety. Spartan was brutal, bulldozing his way towards the exit signs as they headed towards the escalators. Aura still used the suitcase for protection while Hunt covered his head with his arms as more gunshots followed them. They reached the escalators and dashed up them, their panic fuelled by adrenaline. The crowd was out of control, desperate to flee the terminus as the police struggled to keep order.

Hunt relentlessly dragged Aura along as they forced their way up, ignoring the pain of both his healing wound and burning legs. Occasionally he broke her fall as she stumbled against his impatient tugs and wild crowd. Finally they reached the flat surface of ground level.

Hunt barely had the time to glance below, when Spartan drew them out of the crowd, in the opposite direction. Silently Hunt thanked Trent for his contingency plan. They sprinted ahead toward an emergency exit, guarded by an armed officer, who did not hesitate to open the door. Quickly, the three of them slipped through, hearing the slam as it snapped closed behind them. Hunt and Aura were each handed a mask similar to that of Spartan and his men. After donning the masks, they made their way down a narrow set of stairs and along a short passage at which yet another masked guard awaited them.

They bolted through the second door out into the cold to find a parked vehicle on the tarmac. More armed and masked personnel stood guard. Spartan dragged them after him and watched the building and their surrounds as Hunt and Aura dived into the back seat. They were immediately joined by Spartan as the car accelerated forward. Tearing through a number of parked aircraft, Hunt soon spotted a small private charter ahead, seemingly awaiting their arrival. More armed guards guarded the steps leading to the door. The vehicle skidded sideways to a halt and the door was wrenched open. Spartan threw himself out, glancing around again before extending his hand to Hunt. Urging him on he repeated the action with Aura.

Hand pressing against her back, he forced her ahead at as the jet howled. Hunt periodically glanced over his shoulder as he hastened towards the steps. On reaching them, they dashed up into the plane to slump into their seats, completely exhausted. Without further delay the steps receded and Spartan sealed them inside before dropping into his seat facing them. The pilot's announcement sounded, greeting and informing them of the journey ahead. They were all requested to fasten their seat belts as the vibrations of the engine reverberated throughout the cabin. Hunt and Aura watched out the window as they began to cruise down the runway.

They heard the sound of other aircraft taking off and landing. The loud rumbles vibrated through their bodies. They watched a plethora of miniature airport personnel on the ground performing their duties. Moments later as they turned onto the straight, the engines erupted into life and they felt the force ramming them back into their seats. The mighty power of the engines accelerated as they traversed down the long runway, increasing speed considerably as the plane was launched upwards. The ground began to fall away and the realisation they were on their journey finally sank in. Aura breathed a huge sigh of relief as she grabbed Hunt's hand and settled back. Her mind a crazy jumble of thoughts migrating from the tumultuous few weeks after the death of her father, to the fear of the unknown as they took flight.

Six Months Later

The sun had risen. Bright golden rays swept over the vast dry semi-arid desert, igniting the yellows and browns shrouding the area, outlining the harsh appearance. The vegetation was dry and the air hot and humid. The unforgiving land was flat, stretching far away to the horizon, interrupted by lone rocky hillocks, and bordered by a range of flat-topped mountains in the distance, tinted with red dusty soil.

The front porch of a modest log cabin faced the wild Outback. Leaning against the wooden railing clad only in a pair of loose shorts, Detective Carter Hunt breathed in the cool air. His thoughts drifted in the distance, eyes narrowed against the piercing sun well above the horizon. He marveled at the beauty, the peace and serenity enveloping him. Only the occasional squeak of the windmill and sporadic chirrup of a cricket broke the silence.

Many sacrifices had been made to reach this point in his life. The combination of his safe habitat and memories locked away contributed to the true value of his existence and how it was meant to be. Some of the memories had been a burden serving as a lesson. So much cost for something so simple, something for which he was selfishly grateful. The isolation was lonely at times, although he had found it to be therapeutic. Everything was uncomplicated as they had returned to basics. At times he resented the situation into which he had been thrust, but these periods became shorter and shorter as there was more than enough stimulation for his active mind.

He had been incredibly fortunate to find the ranch, isolated and almost off the grid. Managing over five hundred head of prime beef cattle free-ranging throughout the boundless wilderness, they felt safe. The work was grueling, although easy and reasonably well paid, adequate for their needs and enough to keep him and Aura in comfort. Their accommodation, food and medical cover was included as Aura assisted with the bookkeeping and general office activities.

The creak of the wood warned him of her presence. He was not alarmed. Six months previously he would have been alert and guarded. Not many ventured so far from civilisation and their lonely lifestyle deterred gossip. His lips curved in a happy smile. Their migration had been for the better, granting them the new beginning they had sought.

Aura appeared at his side, an aqua sheet wrapped around her. Her long hair was rolled up into a bun with unruly strands falling around her face. She curled her lithe body against Hunt, who pulled her into him with his free arm, and turned to face her. She shifted closer as he looped both arms around her waist, bowing his head to lay a perfectly aimed kiss on her lips. She reciprocated, pressing her nose against his. After a moment lost in their own wilderness, they turned back to gaze at the captivating view. Although the landscape was rugged and unforgiving, it retained a unique beauty of its own.

Hypnotized by the golden light they reminisced in silence, bathed in peace. Their intimacy spoke volumes for they had no need to further express themselves. Hunt leaned against the rail as Aura gently traced her fingers down his neck and shoulder before turning back inside. She drifted past an occasional table, through the double doors into their bedroom, where she cast aside the sheet to dress for the day.

Hunt could feel the path her warm fingers had followed down his neck. The electric feeling coursed through his body as he breathed in the dry air. There was a hint of dampness indicating the possibility of weather change. He closed his eyes and allowed his mind to drift. Before his muse carried him too far he heard his disposable mobile vibrate on the table behind him. Signal in the area was surprisingly good and he assumed his assistance was needed at the cattle pens. Sighing, he dragged himself from his reflections and reached for it.

As he suspected, it was a message. The number was hidden. He frowned as a picture appeared. He tapped the screen to enlarge it and froze. His favorite dish, fish and chips, with lemon, salad and an accompanying sauce led him, momentarily, to assume that Aura was teasing. His stomach clenched as he narrowed his eyes to focus. He felt his heart was being wrenched from his body as paralysis crept through his bones. Above the picture was his name plate, from his desk, back in the police department. His name had been extended in blood to read “Detective Hunt-ed.”

The realization struck him, harder than lightening to the ground. They had made a tragic mistake. Detective Mark Weaver was not the infamous Victor Virgo. His wife Elise, aka Laura, the missing accountant, had been behind the entire operation with tentacles throughout the world and she had tracked them. The phone crashed to the floor, smashing the screen. Aura appeared, shocked. She saw the apprehension in his eyes and knew instantly that their past had finally caught up to them.

The End


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